By H.E. Mr. Laurence Bay, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the Federal Republic of Germany
Singapore is deeply honoured to host the 17th Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business (APK), Germany’s most important economic conference for the thousands of German companies in the Asia-Pacific, from 13 to 14 November.
The presence of both Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Dr Robert Habeck at this biennial event sends a strong and unequivocal signal of Germany’s commitment to deepening its engagement with Singapore and the region. More importantly, it brings Asia and Europe closer as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle the myriad of today’s global challenges together.
Even during the pandemic, Germany and the EU have stepped up their engagement of Asia. A case in point is Germany’s Policy Guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the EU’s Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which provide useful roadmaps for developing inter-regional ties. Singapore welcomes stronger engagement in the areas outlined in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which include economic cooperation, connectivity, and smart cities.
I believe that there is much potential for inter-regional ties to be deepened further. Take Southeast Asia for example. It has a combined population of 622 million and GDP of US$3.2 trillion. By 2030, Southeast Asia will become the world’s 4th largest economy with a rapidly growing middle class. Furthermore, the region has excellent connectivity to the two largest global markets, India and China, and other advanced economies like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
It is in the interest of Asia and Europe to uphold their mutual spirit of friendship, respect, and cooperation, that has been developed over more than four decades. Next month, ASEAN and EU leaders will meet in Brussels for a special summit to commemorate 40 years of relations.
I hope that the Summit will be a platform for meaningful and forward-looking discussions on how both regions can further build on the strong foundation that has been established over the years. Constructive engagement is the key to ensuring prosperity, security, and stability for both sides. The elevation of ASEAN-EU relations to a Strategic Partnership in December 2020 was an important milestone and a step in the right direction. The EU has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam, and is negotiating similar agreements with other Asian countries.
Both regions should work towards an ASEAN-EU FTA in the medium-term. Finally, more attention should be paid to expanding education and cultural ties. The conclusion of the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement in June 2021 is timely in this regard as it will greatly promote more people-to-people exchanges. Though small in size, as a major regional hub, Singapore is well-positioned to work with our partners in Asia and Europe to strengthen the enduring ties that bind us.
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